The Sarai Covenant

April 24, 2012

“Now Abraham and Sarah were old, advanced in age; it had ceased to be with Sarah after the manner of women. So Sarah laughed to herself saying, 'After I have grown old and my husband is old, shall I have pleasure?' The Lord said to Abraham, 'Why did Sarah laugh, and say, 'Shall I indeed bear a child now that I am old?' Is anything too hard for the Lord?" After Isaac is born, Sarah says, “Who would have said to Abraham that Sarah would suckle children. Yet I have borne him a son in his old age.”                       Genesis 21 From this moment of laughter and celebration, covenant and promise, a people are born who are God’s people for all time. Out of age a birth is accomplished that is God’s work for good. Why then, in this time, in this century, as the influence and place of the church in human life is faltering and diminishing, are people of age losing their place in God’s call to bear fruit and bring forth a new thing for God? Sarai and Abram listened and believed God’s promise that from them would come a great nation. They yielded themselves to God’s call and indeed bore forth a people of the covenant. It is no laughing matter that people as young as 48 are not considered for greater responsibility in their now and future church appointments, not so much on the basis of their gifts and call, but simply on the basis of age. Age discrimination, implied and imbued in de facto practices of discrimination break covenant with the God who called Abram and Sarai, Zechariah and Elizabeth and others of age to accomplish God’s purpose in their time. Denying the call and gifts of second career people who finally come to claim and live the call upon their lives is failing to keep the covenant God established from the time God’s people were a people. The church's growing emphasis on development of young pastors is certainly necessary for the ongoing life of the church. But the exclusion of older, gifted, mature, effective people is not only wrong and un-Scriptural, it is effectively an age discrimination that is unlawful in the United States. The church is in trouble enough without disenfranchising the elders of the church and dis-regarding the gifts of wisdom, creativity, and life experience that enrich the church in ways youth alone cannot. As the 2012 General Conference convenes in Tampa, Florida this week, it is my prayer that the issues include careful thought about addressing age-ism in the church. Alongside continuing trouble with gender issues, we simply don’t need another “ism” on the table.  If the problem that is being sensed and experienced by people in the North Carolina Conference is widespread, as I expect it may be, there is a case for consideration and prayer by the larger church, and a call for correction of course. May God bless our church as it meets for Holy Conferencing. May the work of the General Conference be good and edifying to the work of the Kingdom of God. And to God be the glory!      

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